Frequently Asked Questions
- Is air travel safe for our pet?
- I have allergies to dogs and cats. Is there any way I can minimize or cope with my allergies?
- How does diet affect my pet's oral health?
- What is heartworm disease?
- What is an appropriate or safe length of time that a dog can stay out in the cold weather?
- How can we have a happy, healthy, and flea free summer?
- Should I be concerned with pet food contamination?
- How do I interpret a pet food label?
- What are the fundamental causes of obesity in pets?
- What are some guidelines for feeding aging dogs and cats?
- For more FAQs, visit http://www.animalhealthcare.ca/faq.asp
As a rule, pets travel very well but air travel can be a very stressful and traumatic experience for them. In order to minimize this stress, some guidelines should be followed.
The hazards of air travel are usually not in the actual flying, but rather during the down time when your pet is being loaded or unloaded from the airplane, or when it is waiting. Delays can result in extra time spent on the runways before take-off or after landing. At these times the cargo holds are not pressurized and the surrounding temperature can vary from very hot to very cold. In fact, because of this, some airlines will not permit pets to fly during certain times of the year. For this reason, it is best to contact your airline to make sure that no risk is involved and to confirm that they will accept your pet on the flight.
If your pet is small enough, some airlines will allow you to take your dog or cat on board, provided that the carrier fits under the seat in front of you. Check with your air carrier.
It is also a good idea to have your pet examined by your veterinarian prior to departure to ensure that it is in good health and able to endure the rigors of air travel. Tranquillizers and sedatives are not usually recommended for pets except on the advice of your veterinarian. This is because sedation can result in serious complications. For example, it can inhibit your pet's ability to regulate its body temperature or cause breathing problems.
For the actual flight, make sure that your dog is secure in an approved carrier, purchased either from the airline, a pet store or an animal hospital. Introduce your pet to the crate several weeks before departure to get him or her accustomed to it. Ensure that all the screws on the crate are secured and tight. Carriers should be labeled "Live Animal" and "This End Up" in letters at least 3 cm high. Also tape some identification (name, address, destination) to the crate. Ensure that fresh water will be made available to your pet at some time during or after the flight.
It is best to travel in off-peak hours and on non-stop flights. Ideally, your pet should be last on and first off the plane. Remember to notify the flight attendants that you have a pet on board just in case there is a flight delay.
If you are traveling overseas, check the USDA website for regulations.
Persons who have allergies to dogs or cats are actually allergic to the saliva, dander (i.e. shed skin) and the secretions from the hair glands of these animals. Dog and cat hairs by themselves do not cause allergies, but the allergens on the hair shafts do.
The severity of your allergic reaction depends on the amount of allergens you are exposed to. This in turn depends on such variables as the size of the pet (i.e. a bigger dog means more shedding) and on how often you groom and wash your pet. By bathing pets frequently, allergens are washed off and this results in a decrease in symptoms in allergic owners.
The less hair and dander a pet produces (and sheds), the less likely a person with allergies is to react to that animal. For this reason, some breeds of dogs are thought to cause fewer allergic reactions. These include all three sizes of poodles and schnauzers, Kerry Blue, soft-coated Wheaten and Bedlington terriers, Bichon Frisé and Irish water spaniels.
Some suggestions to minimize your allergic symptoms include the following:
Restrict your pet, if not to the outdoors, then at least to a certain area of the house, and especially out of the bedroom. Cat dander can take up to 5 months to disappear after a cat is removed from a house. In fact, cat allergens have even been found in houses and schools in which cats have never been present (the cat allergens are carried in on people's clothing!).
Wash your pets every 1-2 weeks. Studies have shown this to be a highly effective way to reduce allergens on the pet's hair coat.
Control house dust (especially in the bedroom) by removing carpets, reducing the amount of upholstered furniture, and washing materials that can readily trap animal dander (i.e. drapes, bedding, stuffed toys, etc.). Install a high efficiency electrostatic air filter.
Polish and vacuum floors regularly and use a damp cloth or mop to wipe all surfaces and floors weekly. Certain solutions (e.g. 3% tannic acid) applied on carpets will destroy animal allergens without harming the carpet.
In very sensitive individuals, allergy shots may help reduce the degree of allergic reactions to occasional unavoidable animal contact.
Consult both your physician and veterinarian for advice if you suffer from pet allergies.
Dental calculus is a common problem in most domestic cats and dogs resulting from mineralization of dental plaque; plaque being composed primarily of food particles and bacteria. Studies have reported the existence of dental calculus in 86% of cats between the ages of 1-4 years and all cats 5 years of age and older.
A number of options are available to the pet owner to control and maintain the long term oral health of their pets. Oral hygiene practiced on a regular basis is the most effective approach. However, pets need to be conditioned to such procedures from an early age and few owners are compliant on a long term basis. As a result, most owners look to diet or chew treats as a simpler, more convenient, albeit less effective, means of achieving this goal.
Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gum, is reversible and manageable through routine plaque control. If untreated or uncontrolled, gingivitis may lead to periodontitis, an inflammation of the supporting periodontal tissues. Periodontitis may well be irreversible and requires vigorous therapy and plaque control to avoid further progression.
Although often associated with gingivitis and periodontal disease, dental calculus is not the primary causal factor. Both gingivitis and periodontal disease are a result of bacterial overgrowth in the gum tissue that surrounds each tooth. Because dental calculus is so hard due to its mineral content, it usually is not removed when a pet eats hard kibble. Although dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis, there are other contributing factors, such as calculus, age, genetics, breed, immune status and diet.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that feeding a regular dry diet alone, when compared to a canned diet, will reduce the rate of plaque and subsequent calculus formation. However, what is not thoroughly understood is whether this effect is due to the mild abrasive action of the diet, or the greater likelihood of canned food to become entrapped in the gum tissue, leading to greater accumulation of plaque.
Studies have shown that feeding a dry diet coated with sodium hexametaphosphate (a component of some pet toothpaste that acts as the calcium sequestrant) reduced calculus formation by 50 - 80% in dogs. A similar preventive effect was also shown in cats.
Other studies showed the regular use of rawhide chew strips resulted in a modest reduction of calculus formation, but when these treats were coated with sodium hexametaphosphate, again the results showed a significant calculus reduction.
It is not universally accepted, though, that removal of calculus alone is adequate to prevent gingivitis. The removal of bacteria-laden plaque prior to its calcification, however, does minimize gingivitis.
Such research reinforces the opinion that the accumulation of plaque and the impact on oral health can be impacted by the use of certain diets and chew treats alone. Reduction of gingivitis by such means in indeed encouraging, but the long term benefits in the prevention of periodontal disease needs further research.
Within hours of a professional dental cleaning, plaque begins to re-accumulate. Although the teeth may look cleaner, the bacterial counts are not being controlled, even with no obvious calculus present. To obtain long term oral health, oral bacteria must be controlled by minimizing plaque build-up. This is best achieved by veterinarians continuing to demonstrate brushing techniques and encouraging their clients to practice oral home care procedures on their pets from an early age.
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis, which lives in the right side of the heart and the adjacent blood vessels. Its presence in these blood vessels causes cardiovascular weakness, compromised lung incapacity, and eventual death. Heartworm disease occurs primarily in dogs but can occur in cats and other animals on rare occasions.
Heartworm is transmitted from dog to dog (and cat to cat) by mosquitoes. Over 70 species of mosquitoes have already been implicated. Transmission of the parasite occurs as follows: when a mosquito draws blood from a dog or cat infected with heartworm, it takes with it a number of small immature worms called microfilaria. Once inside the mosquito, the microfilaria develop into larvae. Later, when the mosquito bites a new victim, the larvae are injected and that dog or cat becomes infected.
It takes about six and a half to seven months for the larvae to mature and start producing thousands of new microfilaria inside the circulatory system. The adult worms end up occupying the right chamber of the heart and the pulmonary arteries, while the microscopic microfilaria circulate throughout the bloodstream.
All these worms within the blood vessels produce an increased workload on the heart, along with restricted blood flow to the lungs, kidneys, and liver, eventually causing multiple organ failure. At first, pets may exhibit a chronic cough and reduced exercise tolerance, followed by sudden collapse and death.
Once infected, one pet can easily become a "carrier" or reservoir of infection for an entire neighborhood. Sometimes, a dog or cat may have heartworm disease but show no symptoms. By the time symptoms do occur, the disease is well advanced.
Prevention is preferred to treatment. While there are effective treatments available, most veterinarians prefer to promote prevention of heartworm disease. Oral and topical medications that are administered monthly and have shown to be highly effective in preventing heartworm disease are available from your veterinarian.
Dogs do, as a general rule, love the great outdoors and the winter is no exception. In fact many seem to prefer the colder months and seem invigorated by it. Fortunately, dogs were born with “fur coats” and a higher tolerance to colder weather than their owners; but not all of them like to spend extended periods of time outdoors.
To properly determine how long your pet should stay outside in cold temperatures, a number of factors need to be taken into account. These include breed, coat type, general health and age of your dog; whether he/she has been acclimated to the colder weather; the availability of shelter; as well as individual differences in the desire to spend time outdoors. Smaller, short-coated, ill, or geriatric dogs have less tolerance for the cold and therefore are limited to the time they may be able to spend outdoors.
Alternatively, one may want to consider purchasing a coat or sweater: with many different styles and prices to choose from, it should not be hard to find something that suits every budget and pet personality. Conversely, certain breeds which are bred for colder weather, such as the northern breeds (i.e. husky), may actually prefer extended periods outside in the colder weather. If this is done, ensure that adequate shelter is available and only if they have been acclimated to the colder weather (i.e.., have spent longer periods of time outdoors during the change in seasons to allow their coat and metabolism to accommodate the temperature change).
Shelter should be an insulated dog house, off the ground with the door protected or facing away from the prevailing wind and some straw or a blanket for the dog to burrow into. As dogs rely on their body heat to warm their immediate environment, an appropriate shelter should only be large enough for them to lay down comfortably making the garage an unsuitable shelter by itself. Ensuring a high quality diet and access to drinkable (i.e., not frozen) water is essential as outdoor dogs burn more calories to maintain their body heat. Also, pay attention and head cold-weather warnings when they occur.
Perhaps the simplest way of ensuring that your pet's outdoor time is enjoyable is to spend the time with them. This will allow you to watch for any signs that they may be becoming cold such as shivering, running towards and standing by the door, wanting to be held, or loosing interest in the activities that you are doing. Regardless, revel in your outdoor pursuits as it is a wonderful way to enjoy your time together and a healthy activity that you can both enjoy.
Flea season is upon us every time spring rolls around! This is truly a scenario where the old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is true. Many wonderful products have been developed to prevent not only flea infestations, but other common parasites as well. Many of these are no longer based on insecticidal products but on newer strategies, such as products that employ compounds that mimic a parasite's hormones causing them to act as birth control agents. Since these products are parasite-specific, they have a much-reduced potential to harm to our pets. Talk to your veterinarian about the most suitable choice for your pet.
As an aside, be careful of the many myths that surround flea control, especially relating to common household products such as:
Garlic although some fleas may be deterred by garlic, it will not prevent fleas (many fleas apparently develop a taste for it!) Besides, pet breath is difficult to accept at the best of times, let alone with garlic! Garlic should never be given to cats since it is toxic.
Brewer's Yeast this has no effect on fleas and in actual fact may provide fleas with valuable nutrients to grow.
Avon Skin-So-Soft® this product will deter some fleas, but once again, it will not completely prevent fleas from infesting your pet.
Penny Royal Oil this has been recently touted as a dip to be used to prevent fleas but, as with anything that is applied to your pet, will be licked and has the potential of causing kidney or liver damage.
Cedar Shavings these may be helpful for preventing fleas, especially when used in your pet’s bedding but may aggravate respiratory problems or asthma should your pet be prone to these problems.
Remember that your daily grooming session can be used as a time to track down fleas and remove them using a flea comb. This is a completely safe approach, and is especially useful in very young puppies and kittens because of their sensitivity to some preparations. Placing the flea comb with the flea into a bowl of warm, soapy water, or a dish of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol will effectively drown them. Grooming has the added benefit of clearing out dead hair, and keeping the skin and hair coat healthy!
Control of fleas also involves environmental cleanliness. If fleas are resident in yards, households, or basements, periodic environmental treatments with approved products may be needed. Talk to your veterinarian about the best strategy for your home and pets.
In recent years, concerns have been expressed by some pet owners regarding the potential for contamination of pet foods that contain grain products with naturally-occurring mycotoxins . Mycotoxins are metabolic by-products of fungi that are toxic to both animals and man. These concerns are based to some extent on current data which has shown that mycotoxins are toxic to farm and laboratory test animals. Food contamination may be more relevant in pets since they are maintained and fed for longer periods of time than farm animals and thereby are theoretically more vulnerable to chronic exposure to toxicants.
It is generally recognized by pet food manufacturers that mycotoxin contamination is a source of increased problems in their industry. Ingredients that are at risk of becoming contaminated are wheat and wheat products , corn and corn products, soybean meal and hulls, barley and oats.
Mycotoxins can develop prior to harvest where their concentration depends on weather and natural conditions, including moisture, temperature, pH and stresses such as drought and associated growth of other fungi and microbes. Grains and feeds can also be contaminated with mycotoxins between harvesting and drying, as well as during storage. Once produced, these toxins cannot be readily extracted from contaminated feed.
The major mycotoxins with potential for contamination of pet foods are aflatoxins,vomitoxin, zearalenone, fumonisins, and ochratoxin A. Three genera of fungi, Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium (Gibberella), are the most frequently implicated causes of mycotoxin contamination.
Aflatoxins are one of the most potent naturally-occurring carcinogens known to man and have been associated with a variety of health problems in both animals and man. All species appear to be susceptible to this toxin, although susceptibility varies from species to species. The primary target organ for aflatoxins is the liver with liver disease resulting from dogs ingesting aflatoxin-contaminated dog food.
Vomitoxin, known chemically as deoxynivalenol (DON), affects weight gain and appetite in pigs, with 10 ppm resulting in loss of appetite, vomiting and weight loss. It is also known to adversely affect the immune system, although at what levels this would start to occur remains unknown. Little is known about its toxicity in pets. It is known that dogs are susceptible to relatively low levels of vomitoxin and exhibit health problems similar to that seen in swine. Cats, as well as cattle, poultry, and humans, can also be affected.
Zearalenone has been reported to cause clinical signs in poultry, swine and man, but not in dogs or cats. Zearalenone has a chemical structure similar to that of estrogen and causes hyperestrogenism in both laboratory animals and agricultural livestock. Its effects are mainly on the reproductive system. In pigs, it can cause serious reproductive problems, including failure to show heats and reduced sex drive in boars. It can also affect fetal development and the viability of neonates. The intensity of symptoms is dependent on the amount of toxin consumed.
Fumonisins interfere with cell membrane metabolism and the signs of toxicity vary with species. The only studies conducted to demonstrate the effects of fuminosins in pet species has been in rabbits. Ochratoxin A is a nephrotoxin (i.e. toxic to the kidneys) and is also teratogenic (i.e. causes fetal malformation during the first three months of pregnancy) in all species tested. It also impairs the immune system and is a suspected carcinogen.
In order to deal with the potential occurrence of mycotoxins in pet foods, pet food manufacturers currently employ mycotoxin testing programs. These programs include the screening of incoming ingredients prior to their utilization in the formulation of pet foods, both by suppliers and manufacturers. As well, manufacturers perform periodic analysis of pet food products for mycotoxins.
Whether the concern for the presence of mycotoxins in pet foods is a valid one remains under discussion. Since relatively little information exists regarding the toxicological effects of mycotoxins on dogs and cats, further studies are indicated to determine both the identity and sources of mycotoxins that could contaminate pet foods, as well as the effects of mycotoxins on pets. In the meantime, pet food manufacturers must continue to ensure that their mycotoxin management programs are stringently maintained.
One of the more frustrating experiences for a small animal practitioner is to make a specific diet recommendation to a client, only to discover later that the client chose another diet. In many cases, the alternate diet was chosen because it was very similar to the recommended food based on label information. Some pet store employees will commonly use label comparison to support their claims of equality or superiority of their own house brand when compared to virtually any other pet food. If the labels appear similar, owners conclude that the contents are similar. However, perception is often not reality.
In Canada, labeling requirements are minimal. Industry Canada regulates that labels must appear in both official languages and include the identity (e.g. "dog food") and net quantity of the product and the manufacturer’s/distributor’s name and place of business. For foods manufactured in Canada, there are no other label requirements, not even for ingredients or nutritional claims. In practice, however, a great deal more information appears.
The CVMA Pet Food Certification Program has very stringent requirements for its manufacturers which in most respects mirror or surpass the U.S. guidelines. Because manufacturers compete within a global framework, U.S. regulations take precedent over those of the Canadian government. In the U.S., a number of agencies are involved in determining what appears on a pet food label - including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Based on the CVMA’s or AAFCO’s guidelines, the following is a synopsis of what must appear on a label. The principal display panel must show the manufacturer’s name, brand name and product name. An acceptable product name is determined by what are known as "the percentage rules". For example, using the term "beef" on its own, indicates that more than 90% (AAFCO’s is >95%) of the total product must be beef. "Beef dinner/platter, etc." indicates at least 25% beef content. "Beef flavor" usually indicates less than 25% beef, yet enough to allow pet recognition. The AAFCO percentage rules also legislate a maximum of 78% moisture content, unless described with such terms as "in gravy". The principal display panel also includes a species designation, net weight, product vignette and a graphic or pictorial display.
The information panel includes an adequacy claim, e.g. "complete" or "balanced". The panel may also include a nutritional claim based on extensive feeding trials. All ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight, using official names with proper definitions (refer to AAFCO Official Feed Ingredient Definitions). The label must also contain a guaranteed analysis: Crude protein (minimum %) , crude fat (minimum %), crude fiber (maximum %) and moisture (maximum %). The manufacturer’s/distributor’s name and address, universal product code and feeding instructions must also appear.
Despite this information, label comparisons of the product’s quality remains difficult for a number of reasons. With respect to guaranteed analysis, only minimum and maximum values are stated. Although the CVMA does require a maximum ash value for all cat foods and a maximum magnesium level for magnesium-restricted foods, AAFCO has no such requirements. Furthermore, crude fiber is a poor measure of fiber content, and provides no indication as to solubility. Additionally, there are difficulties with interpreting the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed in order of weight with no reference to relative moisture content. For example, there may be more grain at less than 10% moisture than fresh meat with 75% moisture, yet meat is listed first. A primary ingredient such as wheat could be placed well down the list if divided up into its different components, e.g. wheat grain, wheat middlings and wheat mill run. Finally, several different grades of foods can have similar names.
How a diet was analyzed to achieve the label values should be considered. Pet food composition can be stated either on an "as fed" basis, percentage dry matter, or a percentage of total energy. Each method of analysis results in very different information on a label. Although many pet food manufacturers will use percentage dry matter, many nutritionists contend that, because an animal eats to meet its energy requirements, it is the percentage kilocalorie basis of analysis that is the method of choice. Few companies provide this information.
Under the CVMA Pet Food Certification Program, foods are tested every 2 months as part of the ongoing monitoring. In the case of the AAFCO regulations, a pet food may be only required to be tested once in its life time. The net result is that the consumer has to be very wary of comparing pet food labels to deduce quality. By advising owners to look for the CVMA’s certification logo and to follow the veterinarian’s specific recommendations, many of the possible pitfalls in interpreting pet food labels will be avoided.
Obesity is one of the most common nutritional medical disorders affecting companion animals, with approximately 24-40% of pets being classified as overweight. Obesity is defined as an increase of over 20% above the optimum body weight. Reasons for this include a more confined and sedentary lifestyle for pets, availability of highly-palatable, energy dense pet foods and treats, and a strong human-animal bond which leads to overfeeding and snacking.
The fundamental cause of obesity is excess of caloric intake over energy depletion with the surplus being stored as fat. There are many factors which affect this balance, including age, breed, sex, hormonal abnormalities, as well as external factors such as lifestyle, diet formulation and intake.
Hound breeds, Cocker Spaniels, Labradors and Shelties are some of the more common breeds affected. Neutered females, dogs older than 4 years of age and pets belonging to obese owners are more prone to excess weight gain.
The risk of certain health problems increases with obesity, as well as an aggravation of existing clinical disease, such as arthritis and respiratory disease.
Weight reduction can be achieved by lowering of energy intake, coupled with correction of concurrent medical conditions. Increased exercise is critical, but can be impractical in cats or difficult due to owners' lifestyles. Very often behavioral modification techniques are necessary to eliminate inappropriate behavior such as begging. For any weight reduction program to be successful, an owner must first acknowledge that a problem exists and then be committed to its correction.
Calorie reduction in dogs can be quite dramatic, utilizing complete starvation (not recommended in cats due to the possibility of precipitating hepatic lipidosis). This is likely to be unacceptable to owners, would require vitamin/mineral supplementation, and result in an unwanted loss in lean body mass. Moderate weight loss can be achieved by feeding 10-20% fewer calories through less volume of regular food. Restricting calories also restricts protein, vitamins and minerals. However, most pet foods contain sufficient excesses for this degree of calorie restriction.
With grossly obese or less dedicated owners, a more severe caloric restriction may be necessary. Diets which have a more severe restriction of calories (25% or greater) must be specially formulated and fortified to avoid nutritional imbalances. Diet restriction must be introduced cautiously in obese cats as they can often only tolerate moderate caloric restriction. Furthermore, many low calorie/weight reduction diets may be unpalatable to some cats. It is important to ensure that the cat does, in fact, eat the diet when it is first introduced.
With the aid of a number of computer programs or nutritional texts, the daily caloric requirements of the pet can be calculated and the appropriate amount of a specific food prescribed by the veterinarian. The principle in all therapeutic diets is to offer a reduced energy density coupled with a compensatory supplementation of protein, vitamins and minerals. A number of different formulations used by different manufacturers and the most effective has not been established. Some foods offer a lower fat content coupled with higher levels of complex carbohydrate which not only lowers energy density but adheres to the concept that fat is more efficiently laid down as adipose tissue than carbohydrate. Other foods which are low in fat, coupled with high levels of indigestible fiber, rely in part on an earlier feeling of satiety to limit food intake. However, stool volume and palatability may be adversely affected. Alternative bulking methods involve higher water content in canned foods and higher air content of dry foods.
As most dogs and cats will eat to meet their daily caloric requirements, calorie restriction remains the essence of successful weight loss. Although most cases of obesity can be corrected with proper owner compliance, early pet owner education remains the best preventative measure. Overfeeding puppies and kittens may lead to an excess production of fat cells and a tendency to being overweight later in life, In puppies, overfeeding may also accelerate the growth rate, which in certain breeds may increase any predisposition to certain skeletal diseases. Young pets should be fed an appropriate daily amount of a balanced food with a caloric density that will result in normal growth rates and lean body condition. For most adult pets, avoidance of free choice feeding and poor behavioral habits (e.g. begging), and regular exercise will provide a successful approach to the prevention of obesity.
The nutritional requirements of aging pets have been the subject of much discussion in recent years, particularly with the introduction of therapeutic specialty diets. Even though there is little experimental information on the nutritional requirements of senior dogs and cats, commercial diets are nevertheless currently available on the market designed specifically for the geriatric pet. These diets differ from adult maintenance diets in that they contain altered protein and fat levels, fiber content, and vitamin/mineral levels. Whether or not these changes are necessary in all older pets remains to be seen.
Aging results in numerous changes in the geriatric dog and cat that have a direct effect on their nutritional requirements. These changes occur in all the organ systems, causing a decline in body functions and a decreased ability to maintain optimal health . As pets get older, long-term exposure to oxidants, both within the body and outside the body, results in the production of harmful molecules called "oxygen-free radicals". These radicals cause damage to cells in the body. Aging is also associated with a decline in efficiency of the immune system and, since nutritional deficiencies and excesses can modify the immune response in animals, the nutritional make-up of the senior diet must take these factors into account.
As pets get older, there is a decrease in total energy needs because of reduced physical activity and a decline in their ability to metabolize what they eat. For this reason, it is usually recommended that older animals be fed fewer calories per unit of body weight than a younger animal in order to maintain a constant body weight. However, the energy intake of a pet should be based on the individual needs of the pet rather than reducing the caloric intake in all geriatric pets regardless of health status or body mass.
Most older pets, regardless of health status, will benefit from some nutritional guidelines. For example, because food intake is often reduced in the older pet, the percentage of protein may need to be increased modestly in order to maintain an adequate protein intake per unit body mass. There is presently no evidence to indicate that protein restriction in the normal pet will prevent development of kidney disease. Similarly, in those pets that have a reduced food intake, moderate increases (e.g. 25-50%) in the concentrations of vitamins and minerals in the diet may also be beneficial. Increased dietary fiber in the geriatric diet can be helpful but may not be indicated in all senior pets. Current studies indicate that the digestive system of older dogs and cats is very little affected by age and older pets are no less efficient in extracting nutrients from food than younger animals.
Aging brings with it numerous changes which adversely affect normal body functions. However, it is important to realize that these changes do not necessarily affect all pets at the same time. There is currently no evidence to suggest that all geriatric pets would benefit from a specially-formulated therapeutic diet designed specifically for older animals. Above all, it is important for the practitioner to distinguish between the normal, healthy geriatric pet and one that exhibits clinical signs related to diseases due to the aging process before making any recommendations regarding dietary changes.